MAC to Millenium – The University of Maryland from A to Z


More than eighty years ago, as part of Alumni Day, campus officials held an ivy-planting ceremony on the shady hill near Morrill Hall during which class traditions were formally transferred from the graduating seniors to the juniors. Many of the traditions that existed in 1920s — freshman-sophomore tug-of-war, May Day, all-class proms, rat caps — have disappeared, but the new ones, like rubbing Testudo’s nose for good luck and firing off a cannon every time the football team scores, have taken their place.

MAC to Millennium brings together these traditions and many other fun and unusual tales about our campus, from its founding in 1856 as the Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) to the twenty-first century. We hope you enjoy this compilation and that you rub Testudo’s nose every chance you get!

Start learning fun and interesting UMD facts:

Relive Campus History with University AlbUM


Did you know that you can browse historic University of Maryland photographs online anytime you want? Just check out University AlbUM! The site hosts a wide variety of photos ranging from athletics to campus life. Feel free to browse by decade using the drop-down box, or search for subjects and keywords using the search box.

You can even search for and watch historic University of Maryland football games!

The Great Crater of 1927?

As many University of Maryland alums know all too well, the great fire of 1912 that destroyed the campus’ main administration and barracks threatened the future of the then-named Maryland Agricultural College.  Yet the college responded quickly, building a new dormitory, Calvert Hall, that celebrated its centennial in 2014.  But did you know that the barracks remained in more than spirit for many more years?

In a recent review of the earliest alumni newsletter, the June 1927 Alumni Log, we discovered this intriguing statement:

Alumni Log, June 1927.  Full issue available online at

Alumni Log, June 1927. Full issue available online at

According to the above statement, remnants of the barracks remained for a full fifteen years after the fire.  To verify the statement, we then reviewed aerial photos in the Archives from 1926 and 1927, and we found the “hole” in question:

Aerial of University of Maryland campus, 1927.  The remnants of the barracks are within the red outlined area.

Aerial of University of Maryland campus, 1927. The remnants of the barracks are within the red outlined area. To view the original image, visit our digital image site at

Apparently it’s always taken a long time to get things done at Maryland.

Fifty Years Ago…Al Danegger is Photog of the Year

In the spring of 1965 university photographer Al Danegger was named University Photographer of the Year.  Al was a tremendous recorder of all things University of Maryland, and he served in the post of campus photog for almost 50 years.  Al passed away in 2013, but his work serves as fantastic documentation of campus events from his long tenure.  To see what we posted about Al in 2013, click here.  To see even more examples of Al’s fantastic photography, click here.

Article from The Maryland Magazine, May-June 1965. Available online at

Article from The Maryland Magazine, May-June 1965. Available online at

A Blaze of…Charity?

The University Archives notes the passing of Blaze Starr, an iconic Maryland figure who once had a very interesting connection with the university. Miss Starr died on June 15, and you can find her obituary here:

We reprise the story of Blaze and the residents of Dorchester Hall here, from a blog post originally published on Terrapin Tales in 2013.

Everyone participates in raffles at some point, whether for small door prizes or new cars.

But back in May of 1969, according to the student newspaper the Diamondback, a couple of industrious UMD students thought they’d offer something unique.

What the gentlemen of Dorchester Hall offered was an evening’s entertainment—with the famous (or infamous) Blaze Starr.

Blaze Starr

Blaze Starr–click HERE to read the Diamondback article from May 2 1969.

Starr had long been a stripper and burlesque dancer, starting in Baltimore in 1950. By 1969 she had gained national notoriety as the long-time mistress of the former Governor of Louisiana, Earl K. Long, and had returned to Baltimore, where she danced at the Two O’Clock Club, which she owned.

The Dorchester Hall raffle was part of the campus’ Ugly Man on Campus Contest, which raised money for charity. Each organization or group put forth their “Ugly Man,” and people voted with their money. The “Man” (a student made up to look horrible) responsible for ‘earning’ the most money got a night on the town, and their sponsoring group won bragging rights. The money went to local charities around College Park.

Ugly Man on Campus, 1954

Ugly Man on Campus, 1954

And the winners of the raffle? “Free champagne and a stage show for himself and a guest at his convenience.”  Unfortunately, we have not discovered if the raffle was successful, or if the prize was ever redeemed.

Who Was….UMD Alum and Tony nominee Bill “Bing” Johnson?

As the 1945 alumni magazine article below attests, Bill “Bing” Johnson (’36) was an extremely talented individual.  An engineering major from Baltimore, Johnson’s first love was performance, and he was a notable member of the university’s dramatics group, the Footlight Club.  He starred on both stage and screen, though he was better known for his Broadway performances, garnering a Tony nomination for the role of “Doc” in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final musical, 1955-1956’s “Pipe Dream,” based on a John Steinbeck novel. Johnson was also a charter member of the Broadway Show League, a softball league full of Broadway stars and staffers organized in 1955.  Johnson died suddenly of a heart attack in March of 1957, and the BSL created its first-ever MVP award in his name.


The University Archives Acquires the Papers of Jerome Forrest

The papers of a former University of Maryland graduate student, Jerome Forrest, who studied under Dr. Gordon W. Prange, are now accessible at the University Archives.


Dr. Gordon W. Prange was a professor of history at the university from 1937 until his death in 1980. He is best known for his research on the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces during World War II and is responsible for bringing to the university a collection of Japanese print publications issued during the early years of the Occupation of Japan, 1945-1949, entitled The Gordon W. Prange Collection. The University Archives also houses a collection of his personal papers; you may consult the finding aid for this collection on ArchivesUM at

Jerome Forrest was an associate of Dr. Prange prior to enrolling at the university and conducted a series of interrogations with Dr. Prange between 1947 and 1951; the transcripts of those interrogations as well as correspondence between Prange and Forrest are included in this collection.

Dr. Prange convinced Forrest to enroll in the University of Maryland as graduate student to study under him in 1951. Forrest took one course on Recent Far Eastern Politics in the spring of that year before withdrawing from the university. He went on to pursue a career as an economist and trade negotiator and continued to work for the U.S. government from the 1950s to the 1970s before working as a consultant for the remainder of his career. His interest in U.S. involvement in the Far East never waned and was tied into his work as an economist and trade negotiator. He edited and published many publications relating to the Far East post-World War II, and that work is present within this collection as well.

Mr. Forrest passed away on May 18, 1998, and his daughter and grandson, June and Jeffrey Stanley, have graciously donated his papers to the University Archives. These papers are closely related to the Papers of Gordon W. Prange and will serve as a great companion to that collection as well as other collections relating to Far Eastern studies.

For more information about the Papers of Jerome Forrest or Gordon W. Prange, contact University Archivist Anne Turkos (301-405-9060;

The Father of Maryland’s Forests: M.A.C. Alumnus Fred Besley

What would Maryland look like if there were no trees? McKeldin Mall, at the heart of the University of Maryland’s campus, would be barren. Drivers on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway many of and Maryland’s other roads and highways would only be able see road signs and billboards. The great forests in Patapsco Valley State Park, Deep Creek Lake State Park and all the other state parks would be gone too. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Fortunately today, trees are a common and beautiful sight all over Maryland, thanks in large part to Maryland Agricultural College alum Fred Besley, the first Maryland State Forester and the father of forestry in Maryland.

Willow Way, circa 1985

The trees on the north side of McKeldin Mall are willow oaks which have provided share for generations of students.

Besley was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1872. He entered the Maryland Agricultural College (later the University of Maryland) at the young age of 16 and graduated in 1892 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He started working as a teacher, but soon grew dissatisfied and left to work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During his first visit at the USDA, Besley met Gifford Pinchot, the father of American conservation, who convinced him to work in the Division of Forestry. “Pinchot was so boiling over with enthusiasm about forestry that then and there I adopted forestry as my career,” Besley later recalled. Besley worked as a student assistant for Pinchot and took advanced courses in forestry from Yale University.

In 1906, Besley was appointed the first Maryland State Forester. Maryland was just the third state to even have a state forester, and he was hand-picked by his mentor Pinchot to lead the state’s forestry and conservation efforts. Immediately, Besley went to work protecting Maryland forests from fires, pests and fungal diseases, and excessive harvesting and cutting practices. Land for state parks and forests were increased from a little under 2,000 acres in 1906 to well over 117,000 acres by his retirement in 1942. After Maryland passed the Roadside Tree Law, the nation’s first law to protect trees and natural areas near public roads, Besley encouraged utilities and the State Roads Commission to plant and maintain roadside trees and made sure that unauthorized advertisements were not put on public highways. One of Besley’s favorite leisure activities was to arm his family with handsaws for a Sunday drive, hunting for any illegal signs on the roads to cut down and haul away. Besley’s 36-year storied career laid the groundwork for the great system of state forests and parks that Marylanders enjoy all over the state today.

Fred Besley

Protecting Maryland forests was no joking matter for Fred Besley. Photograph courtesy The Forest History Society.

Fred Besley at a Campfire talk

Besley (standing) believed in teaching the public about the value of forests. He is shown here giving a talk to the Maryland Mountain Club in 1941. Photograph courtesy of the Maryland State Archives.

By 1916, Besley had personally surveyed, cataloged, and mapped every single wooded area larger than five acres in the entire state of Maryland! A ten-year project, he often had to travel by horse or on foot to get to remote areas. “I’d hire a horse and buggy at a livery stable and jolt out along the dirt roads as far as possible and then on foot follow the cow paths up through the woods,” he later said. He published a book, The Forests of Maryland, based on his work, which was regarded by many as one of the finest forest surveys written.

Besley remained involved with his alma mater throughout his career. He occasionally taught forestry classes, and he established the state’s first forest tree nursery in College Park in 1914 on the corner of Route 1 and Lakeland Road. Besley’s assistant foresters were so well-trained that the university constantly tried to hire them away as professors of forestry, though Besley fought hard to keep them working for the state forest service. He had a personal relationship with many presidents of the University of Maryland and often made recommendations about campus trees. Besley even visited President Raymond Pearson’s house often and once helped discover a mysterious disease that kept killing all the oak trees on his property!

After Fred Besley’s retirement in 1942, he remained active in forestry, teaching classes at the University of West Virginia and privately maintaining forests on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He died in Laurel, Maryland, in 1960. Without Besley, the Maryland would look very different. The M.A.C. alum’s commitment to healthy forests, public parks, and beautiful natural areas made a major impact on the state and became a model for forestry and conservation around the country.

15 of the Most Iconic Front Pages From The Diamondback

The Diamondback student newspaper has been a huge part of the University of Maryland for over 100 years. Originally named The Triangle, The Diamondback has covered everything from local campus news to world events, national celebrations, and tragedies. In connection with our current Launch UMD campaign to raise money to digitize The Diamondback and make it available online worldwide, we have compiled a list of 15 of the most iconic Diamondback front pages dating all the way back to 1910.

Are there events or stories that we missed? With the Diamondback archive fully available online, you will be able to explore and make your own list. Make sure to check our Twitter and Facebook pages for more iconic front pages throughout the rest of April.

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Noted Marine Biologist Eugenie “Shark Lady” Clark, Former UMD Professor, Dies at 92

The university mourns the loss of marine biologist Eugenie Clark,who passed away on February 25 in Sarasota, Florida. Dr. Clark taught marine biology at the University of Maryland from 1968 until her retirement in 1992. Born in New York City on May 4, 1922, to a Japanese mother and an American father, Clark would later become a pioneer in the field of marine biology and break down many barriers for women in the field.

Photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

23 photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium


Although Clark researched other fish, discovering several species and having a few named in her honor, she focused mostly on sharks. Her fascination began in her childhood at the age of nine when on visits to the New York Aquarium at Battery Park in lower Manhattan, she’d press her nose to the shark tanks and imagine herself inside, swimming with the sharks. She would later go on to earn a B.A. in zoology from Hunter College in 1942 and a master’s and Ph.D. from New York University. She conducted underwater scientific research completing 70 deep dives in submersibles. During one dive in the Sea of Cortez, she rode the back of a 50-foot whale shark, the largest fish in the sea. It’s no wonder why she was referred to as the “Shark Lady.”

photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Clark wrote the best-selling book Lady with a Spear in 1953 about her experiences conducting research in the South Pacific, which inspired many people to work in marine biology, particularly women. She went on to found the Mote Marine Laboratory in 1955, which focuses on research concerning sharks, wild fisheries, coral reef restoration, marine biomedical research, and other issues.

photo courtesy of David Doubilet for National Geographic

photo courtesy of David Doubilet for National Geographic

Eugenie Clark was well respected and loved by her colleagues at the University of Maryland. Arthur Popper, professor emeritus and research professor in the Department of Biology here at the university had this to say of her:
“Genie was an amazing communicator of science and was able to make science exciting to everyone from children to colleagues. Genie was in high demand as a speaker around the world, and her talks combined great science and infectious enthusiasm for science. Indeed, I recall one week when I heard Genie give a talk on her work to a spell-bound group of 10 year olds in my daughter’s elementary school class, and then she gave a very similar talk to an equally spell-bound group of scientists,  including Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Leaky. Genie was able to captivate audiences, and impart an excitement of science, and a love of science, that was powerful and unique. I know a number of people, including a good number of women, who decided on careers in science or science-related fields after being inspired by Genie.”

Eugenie Clark will be missed by everyone at the University of Maryland as well as the scientific community at large for her contributions to the field of marine biology and her wonderful spirit.

Track Glory at Cole Field House

On March 13, the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships will begin at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This year the Terps are sending two athletes, Amber Melville and Thea LaFond to compete in the high jump and triple jump against the nation’s best collegiate competitors! But did you know that Cole Field House has seen some memorable track and field performances in its day too?

For decades Cole Field House was home to a handsome four lane wooden track.

Cole Field House’s handsome looking track was wooden, 1/11th of a mile around.

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